ADAPT Shop building better lives for children with disabilities

Phoenix workshop designs adaptive equipment to help children become more independent in daily activities

There’s a workshop tucked away near Sky Harbor International Airport that focuses on changing lives — designing and building customized equipment adaptations that will give children with disabilities hope and help as they learn to navigate the world.

It’s called the ADAPT Shop, one of several Easterseals disabilities services provided by Southwest Human Development, and it’s a place where every project begins with an idea based on a need and ends with a life improved. Thanks to therapists and fabricators ready to make a difference, children from birth to age 5 who have physical disabilities develop the competence and confidence they need to become independent, active participants in their own lives.

Sometimes simple, low-tech adaptive equipment can reduce the impact of a child’s impairment and help the child become more independent and functional in daily activities. That product might be a toy that’s been modified so the child can now play with it. Or it could be a seat support that helps a child sit up on his or her own.

ADAPT Shop products can also be custom-made mobile scooters or anything else that can be identified, designed or fabricated just for children and for their specific needs. Families in search of answers get help from the ADAPT Shop in determining what equipment would be most helpful for their child whether custom made or commercially available.

“The ADAPT Shop is meeting a need that’s simply not met in many places in the country,” said Ginger Ward, CEO of Southwest Human Development. “There’s a lack of equipment available for younger children with disabilities, and as a result, their growth and quality of life is even further compromised. Our goal is to change that and to provide these children and their families with the tools they need to enjoy life more and increase their capabilities.”

The ADAPT Shop, open since 2011, has helped families such as the Patrick-Rodriguez family, one of the first to seek its help.

A Southwest Human Development physical therapist provided their daughter Daisy with help to strengthen her body while the ADAPT Shop specialists worked with her family on solutions to make her life easier. Together, they designed a custom-fit foam chair that strengthened her core muscles while helping to hold up her head.

Daisy no longer had to lie in her crib waiting for her family to finish dinner. With the new foam chair, Daisy could sit with family at the dinner table for the very first time.

Since it opened, Southwest Human Development’s ADAPT Shop has gained a reputation as a reliable center for other innovations that can solve both the common and the rare physical challenges that children with disabilities face as they grow.

The problem-solving process begins during the child’s therapy. Together, the Southwest Human Development therapists collaborate with the families and ADAPT Shop fabricators to design and craft new equipment which can give the children new mobility, strength and confidence. Its products have included a “stand-up bar” that children grab to pull themselves from a seated position to stand, a toddler scooter to help children who cannot move their bodies without assistance, a new switch that gives children the ability to play with toys and move the scooter around, so they can be independently mobile, among many others.

The ADAPT Shop creates something new every day because each new child referred to the program – and each new milestone a child reaches – leads the ADAPT Shop to develop another piece of equipment to help the child reach his or her greatest potential.

Community therapists are on hand to team with the ADAPT Shop on adaptation ideas and fabrications for their clients and occupational and physical therapists with technology knowledge and experience are also available to pitch in their expertise.

Since opening, the ADAPT Shop has helped more than 530 young children who have disabilities that keep them from being able to fully participate in everyday activities at home, with their friends and at school. Heather Magdelano, a mother of two who both have a rare disorder that impacts their sight, hearing and muscle development, said the ADAPT Shop has made a huge difference for her family.

“The ADAPT Shop has opened up our world to possibilities that we weren’t able to see and we’ve been able to do things that we weren’t able to do before,” Magdelano said. “They’re now able to sit upright and interact with others thanks to the ADAPT Shop’s support and their vision.”

Learn more about Southwest Human Development’s ADAPT Shop and ways you can support the program to improve the lives of Arizona’s young children with disabilities at swhd.org/ADAPT.